Did you know that the oldest parts of the Edward Bellamy House were likely constructed in the 1820s? In this blog post, we take a closer look at the property that the Bellamy family owned.
The main part of the Edward Bellamy House is constructed in the Greek Revival style and dates to about 1840. The pilastered front doorway, sidelights and transom, interior configuration, and design elements of the front stairs are all typical of this period. It is likely that the house was constructed for Harmon Rowley, a merchant and local politician, who purchased the property on October 17, 1839, and it is believed that the house was designed by Elias Carter, an architect from Worcester who moved to Chicopee Falls in 1837. This belief is based on the similarity of the eight panel doors (an unusual configuration for the time) to the doors of a house that Carter built in Worcester in 1836. Also, the aureole window in the pediment is similar to the one on the façade of 71 Church Street, which in turn resembles the façade of the John Wyles House in Brimfield, Massachusetts—another Carter design.1
Interestingly, the main part of the house is not the oldest part of the building. A study that was done in the 1970s found that the two rear ells have elements that date them to between 1800 and 1825, such as the original 12 over 12 window sash that was typical of that period. It is unknown whether the ells were moved to their current location from somewhere else or the house was designed to incorporate them, but it can be surmised that they are some of the oldest surviving structures in Chicopee Falls.2
The Bellamy family’s connection with the house begins in 1855. On February 6 of that year, Harriet L Packer, Edward’s aunt and the benefactor of Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, purchased the property for $2,300. Edward’s mother, Maria Bellamy, in turn purchased the property from her sister on April 26, 1861.3 The parcel of land as described in the deed matches the parcel of land that the Edward Bellamy Memorial Association currently owns.
It wasn’t until January 14, 1867, that Rufus K. Bellamy, Edward’s father, purchased the lot of land that fronted Belcher Street (now Hastings Street) behind the family’s Church Street home. An 1870 map of Chicopee Falls showing the outline of individual properties indicates that northerly and southerly borders were straight lines that ran from Church Street to Belcher Street. Although the house is known as the Edward Bellamy House and was the author’s residence for most of his life, Edward did not own the home and the back lot until June 4, 1894, when he purchased them from his mother’s estate. The land records do not show a sale of the property to Edward’s wife, Emma S. Bellamy, so it is assumed that the property passed to her upon his death. Emma continued to own both pieces of land until she sold the property to John and Catherine Hanifan (parents of photographer Daniel Hanifan) on September 9, 1905.4
Today, there is one other structure on the Bellamy House property, and it has often found itself at the center of debate. Now located directly behind the house, the barn was moved there in the 1980s to save it from demolition when a multi-family home was going to be constructed on Hastings Street. It has often been said that this was the Bellamy family’s barn, and it ended up on a neighbor’s property when the land behind the house was split up and sold off. But is this true?
Evidence suggests that it is not. An examination of the 1896 and 1910 Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for Chicopee Falls does not show a barn behind the Bellamy’s house and instead shows that the structure that was moved had been on the neighboring property to the west (99 Church Street). While there was another structure behind 91-93 Church Street in 1896, it was on the east side of the property and is the wrong shape to be a barn. As the current day property lines match the description of the property that Harriet Packer purchased, it seems that while the barn is of the right era, it did not actually belong to the Bellamys.5
- Consulting Services Group, The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, The Bellamy Homestead Historic Structures Report, November 1977, p. 5; Hampden County, Massachusetts Land Records, Vol. 109, p. 230.
- Consulting Services Group, The Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, p. 3-4.
- Hampden County, Massachusetts Land Records, Vol. 176, p. 444; Hampden County, Massachusetts Land Records, Vol. 209, p. 169.
- Hampden County, Massachusetts Land Records, Vol. 245, p. 406; “Chicopee Falls,” Hampden County 1870, Frederick W. Beers, 1870, http://www.historicmapworks.com (accessed August 28, 2022); Hampden County, Massachusetts Land Records, Vol. 521, p. 129; Hampden County, Massachusetts Land Records, Vol. 700, p. 31
- Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Chicopee, Hampden County, Massachusetts, Sanborn Map Company, Feb, 1896, map, https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn03707_003/ (accessed August 28, 2022); Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Chicopee, Hampden County, Massachusetts, Sanborn Map Company, Sep, 1910, map, https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn03707_005/ (accessed August 28, 2022).